As we reached the end of Day 2 of NBA Free Agency, a hint of panic is in the air for fans of the Miami Heat. Some free agents have already agreed to deals; Carmelo Anthony is in the midst of being wooed by teams; rumors are flying around like crazy.
And the Heat have had minimal impact, as of yet.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that LeBron James wants to get a max contract (starts at a little over $20 million a year). That story is a bit puzzling, as LeBron’s max limits what the Heat can offer to free agents. Plus, it implies that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are going to take bigger hits than anticipated.
On Wednesday, ESPN’s Chris Broussard brought a twist to the “LeBron is going back to Miami” narrative, when he reported that the Big Three aren’t on the same page when it comes to re-signing with the Heat.
Call me biased (and you will!), but I don’t buy it.
To say the Big Three are not on the same page about their decisions is ridiculous, considering that both Wade and Bosh opted out of their contracts to become free agents. Passing up a guaranteed $42 million isn’t exactly an easy decision. Yes, Bosh is likely to make that up when he finalizes his deal, but what about Wade? I’m going to guess that teams aren’t jumping at the chance to offer more than $50 million – an amount he’s going to have to shoot for to make this work out for him – to a 32 year old guard that isn’t guaranteed to play more than 70 games in a season. If LeBron chooses to leave, then Wade loses all leverage with the Heat, as they’ll know he won’t get a better deal than with Miami. You don’t think Wade would want to know what LeBron was thinking before taking that chance?
I’m going to guess this is a story drummed up by someone in LeBron’s camp trying to kick start the Heat’s attempts at courting free agents. Considering that the Cavaliers are rumored to be giving the Jazz’ Gordon Heyward an offer sheet of 4 years, $60 million-plus, which would take Cleveland out of the running to offer LeBron a max deal, then his party is going to need to create some leverage.
The Lakers, Mavericks, and Rockets (assuming they trade Jeremy Lin) are the only likely teams that have the necessary cap space to sign LeBron to a max contract that he might be interested in going to. This actually plays into the Heat’s hands, as they can A) offer more money than any of those teams (about $22 million) and B) they can save money if they can convince him to take the same $20 million that other teams can offer, and use the savings to get free agents.
The problem then becomes who exactly are the Heat trying to get? News broke that the Wizards re-signed Marcin Gortat to a 5 year, $60 million deal (ugh, good luck with that after year 3) and are trying to bring back Trevor Ariza. Those are two possible Heat targets.
Reports are saying that the Raptors have agreed on a 4 year, $48 million deal with Kyle Lowry. If that’s the case, then the Heat have lost out on another big name.
But is that necessarily a problem? For many Heat fans, they see the big, flashy names and immediately think the Heat should sign them all. Carmelo! Lowry! Pau Gasol! They’re all coming to South Beach *pops a bottle*!
Here’s the reality: Miami just needs to bring in players that were better than the ones that lost in the NBA Finals. Re-read that last sentence.
Those players are still available and aren’t being discussed. Shawn Marion is the wing defender that Shane Battier couldn’t be against San Antonio. Vince Carter would have led the Heat in three-point percentage (39.4%) this past season. Jameer Nelson was just released, as he was coming off a season that saw him go for 12 ppg, 7 apg last year. Is that not better than Mario Chalmers? No one seems to care for Spencer Hawes, but floor-spreading bigs are the new “thing” in the NBA, and he shoots the 3 pretty well (41% in 2013-14). The stink of Philadelphia and Cleveland might have soured people on him, but a change of scenery to a winner might do him some good. You know what these guys have in common? They’re each likely to be had for less than the $11-$12 million that Miami might have available.
You might scoff at those options, but it was players like Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, and Patty Mills that broke the Heat. Danny Green, someone who we weren’t sure could dribble the ball, was driving to the basket. And if I told you before the Finals that Kawhi Leonard would win the MVP for his performance on offense, you would have thought I was nuts. My point? They don’t need to bring in All-Stars or future Hall of Famers. Just guys that can improve upon what failed them against the Spurs, and can fit into the system that is implemented.
Look, I was driving the Lowry-to-Miami bandwagon. But I was thinking he’d be available to the Heat for $8-$9 million. The $12 million a year that he’s looking at is a bit much for what Miami needs to accomplish. Ariza still might be in play, but in a market where Avery Bradley is getting $8 million a year (!) and Ben Gordon can get $4.5 million a year (!!!), then he could easily get $10-$11 million. The Heat can still offer that, but Washington might break the bank for him.
But everyone just needs to calm down. It’s still Day 2. In 2010, it was Day 3 when rumors popped up that LeBron and Wade were going to Chicago. Things turned out “OK”. This is the time of year when rumors and “sources” are like currency to media members, so it’s just a matter of surviving the storm.